Tag Archives: cheese

The Perfect Holiday Cheese: Brie

Once called “The King of Cheeses,” Brie cheese is almost synonymous with the holidays, even more so because Champagne is its famous “Wine Partner.” The buttery, toasty, creamy flavor of Brie goes perfectly with Champagne, and Champagne goes perfectly with parties and the holidays. It’s a great match.

Brie is a soft cow’s cheese named after Brie, the French region from which it originated. It’s unusually flat for a cheese wheel and noted for its white, powdery mold rind (which is typically eaten), and of course, for its interior, which is pale creamy/butter-like in coloring and (at room temperature) pudding-like soft.

Like fine wine, the flavor of Brie and its quality depends largely upon the ingredients used and its manufacturing environment, but all have some degree of subtle flavor nuances in addition to a main component (in this case dairy). Brie flavor nuances range from hazelnut to herbs and fruit.

Brie’s exceptional buttery flavor comes from its butterfat content. It also creates an incredibly creamy cheese.

How buttery?

When you consider that most heavy (whipping) cream you buy has a butterfat of 36% to as high as 40%, you might be astounded to know that Double Cream Brie must (by law) have a butterfat content of at least 60%!

And Triple Cream Brie 75%!!

And those are minimums!!

If you ever wanted to know why Brie tastes so buttery, there’s your answer.

Brie cheese is typically allowed to “mature” for about four months to develop its characteristic white mold but may be aged much longer to develop additional (stronger) flavors.

Although Brie is a French cheese by origin, as with Champagne wine (often called sparkling wine), it is possible to obtain Brie made in other places, like Wisconsin.

But in France, the French government officially certifies only two types of cheese to be sold under that name: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun. Both enjoy the protection of Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) status.

How do you serve Brie?

Serving Brie is as easy as letting it sit out until the cheese is at room temperature and then serving it with crackers or slices of fresh or toasted French bread. You can also serve it gently warmed in a crock or wrapped in pastry and fully baked.

Its most common garnishment/condiment pairings are with fruits and nuts. Figs are an exceptionally popular pairing.

Brie Basics in Review:

  • The white, moldy Brie rind is edible and is usually eaten along with the softer interior.
  • Brie is served at room temperature, slightly warmed or baked.
  • Champagne goes particularly well with Brie.
  • Under-ripe Brie will be hard in the center and have little smell. Correctly ripened Brie is evenly thick and even slightly bulged at the center. It has a slightly sweet smell. Over-ripe Brie is slightly darkened on the edges, the rind may be a bit gummy, and it may appear slightly sunken in the middle. It may also have an ammonia-like odor (which is not harmful) but is a natural part of the aging process.
  • Once Brie is correctly ripened, it should be refrigerated and then consumed within a few days.
  • Brie stops aging once it is sliced, so if it is not properly aged when you cut into it, it will not improve.
  • Hooray! Ripe, uncut Brie may be frozen for up to 6 months.

And of course, I can’t leave you without a Brie recipe, so here is a Basic Baked Brie recipe your guests will love.

There are many different fruit spreads that can be used, but fig is my favorite and many different types of pastry crusts (pie dough, biscuit dough, Brioche dough, or again, my favorite, Puff Pastry Dough). Experimentation is the secret to finding what you like best.

Basic Baked Brie

Serves 8

1 1 Kilo Wheel of Ripe Brie Cheese
1 – 6 oz Jar Dalamatia Fig Spread
½ Cup Toasted Pecans, Walnuts or Sliced Almonds
2 – 9” Dia. Pastry Dough (see notes above)
1 Egg
¼ Cup Milk

  1. Choose pastry dough of choice and roll out on a floured surface until you have a round approximately ¼” thick for Brioche or Biscuit Dough and 1/8” thick for Pie dough or Puff Pastry Dough. The dough needs to be rolled at least 2” larger than the size of your Brie wheel. Place the dough on a cookie sheet.
  2. Spread the Fig Spread over the surface of the center of the dough ONLY to the size of your actual Brie. You should have about 2” of dough left around the perimeter, with no spread.
  3. Top the fig spread with the toasted nuts.
  4. Place the Brie round on top of the nuts and spread. Leave the rind on the Brie.
  5. Beat together the egg and milk and brush over the side and top of the Brie.
  6. Gently fold the exposed, additional dough against the side of the Brie. There should be enough additional dough that ½ inch or so also folds over on top of the Brie itself.
  7. Cut the 2nd diameter of crust to match the diameter of the exposed top of the Brie wheel (now with pastry on its bottom and side).
  8. Paint whatever dough has been folded over on top of the Brie with some of the egg wash, and carefully cover the Brie with the second crust, sealing it on the edge.
  9. Turn the entire pastry-wrapped Brie over, and place it once again on a non-stick cookie sheet.
  10. Paint the surface with the remaining egg wash. You can decorate the surface with any additional dough pieces you may have, using the egg wash as “glue.”
  11. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
  12. Before placing the Baked Brie in the oven, make 2 or 3 small incisions on top of the dough to allow steam an escape route.
  13. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the pastry is fully baked and golden.
  14. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool 20 to 30 minutes before cutting to allow cheese to set, especially if it is triple-cream Brie.
  15. Serve with crackers or slices of French bread.

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Recipes

Americans eat a LOT of cheese.

On average, approximately 35 lbs of cheese…

Every year.

Of all that cheese, mozzarella edges out cheddar as the most consumed in this country… (Pizza Hut, Little Caesars and Domino’s, you can stand up and take a bow…)

However, due to the enormous production of the “processed,” partially dried “loaf” mozzarella used by most pizzerias across the U.S., and coupled with pizza’s overwhelming popularity in general, fresh mozzarella cheese has become the forgotten cousin of its more famous pizza relative. In fact, the use of fresh mozzarella on a pizza is almost a novelty nowadays; its main use is in salads, appetizers and cold food dishes.

(And as a side note, if you want to taste just how delicious fresh mozzarella can be on a pizza, stop by Nino’s and pick up one of our awesome Margarita Take n’ Bake pizzas available in both white and whole wheat crusts.)

Fresh_mozzarella_recipes

Just what is fresh mozzarella?

Fresh mozzarella is, exactly as the name implies, fresh. It’s generally white, semi-soft, higher in moisture content and traditionally eaten (if not immediately) within a day or two of being made (whereas processed mozzarella can be stored for as long as six months).

Of the many cheeses we consume on a regular basis, mozzarella cheese is relatively easy to make. As a matter of fact, you can take mozzarella cheese from milk to finished product, ready to eat in less than one hour.

In Italy, the process of making mozzarella is called pasta filata, which means the curds are heated in water or whey and then stretched and kneaded until smooth. The soft cheese is finally formed into round balls and stored in a brine solution.

What does mozzarella taste like?

The tastes of the two mozzarellas are “somewhat” similar but the first thing one notices is the texture difference. Fresh mozzarella is, well…let’s say…spongy and tender. You’ll also notice that when fresh mozzarella melts, the cheese is creamier than the chewy/rubbery processed mozzarella, which some people prefer.

Are all fresh mozzarellas the same?

Traditionally, mozzarella was simply “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” made from the milk of water buffalo raised in designated areas of Lazio and Campania, Italy. It’s believed that the idea of this cheese came from the Roman’s conquest on Egypt during Caesar’s rein, when Egyptian barges were pulled by water buffalo, and their milk used to make cheese for Cleopatra and her “minions. ” Mark Anthony’s passion for both resulted in subsequent gifts of water buffalo to Caesar in Rome, where they flourished (as did their cheese).

Which supposes a “6 degrees of separation” theory from Cleopatra to Chuck E. Cheese?

Today in Italy, this cheese holds the status of a protected designation of origin (PDO 1996) under the European Union.

As you might imagine, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is more “robust” in flavor and more expensive than Fior di Latte (mozzarella made from cow’s milk).

Still, there is something for everyone’s tastes and budget.

If you’ve never tasted fresh mozzarella or if you’d like to try a couple of recipes, we have some. Below are links to two recipes people at Nino’s have enjoyed for years. We’re also adding two new recipes that we know you’ll want to try.

From Nino’s Recipe Archives:

Mozzarella Salada Rustica
Tomato Mozzarella Salad (Caprese Salad)

Nino’s NEW Fresh Mozzarella Recipes!

Salvaggio’s Cobblestone Fresh Mozzarella Pavé

Serves 4

  • 4 slices Salvaggio’s, Pepperoni Jalapeno Cobblestone Bread
  • 8 oz. Fresh mozzarella (3” balls)
  • 4 medium Roma tomatoes, sliced ¼”
  • 3 tbsp. Roasted garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup Fresh basil, shredded
  • To taste Black pepper, freshly ground
  • To garnish Dark balsamic crème

Method

  1. Lightly toast bread and place on a non-stick cookie sheet.
  2. Arrange 4 slices of Roma tomato on each slice of bread, then top with chopped roasted garlic.
  3. Slice fresh mozzarella cheese in ¼” slices, then cut into quarters. Arrange cheese over tomato slices to just cover.
  4. Sprinkle black pepper over the cheese and bake in an oven pre-heated to 375 F until the cheese just melts.
  5. Remove from the oven, top with fresh basil and drizzle lightly with balsamic crème.
  6. Cut into quarters and serve warm.

Fresh Mozzarella with Grilled Asparagus & Lemon Pepper

Serves 4

  • 8 oz. Fresh mozzarella (1” balls)
  • 2 dozen spears Fresh asparagus
  • 1 cup Grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp. Roasted garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ cup Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. Lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. Lemon pepper seasoning
  • To taste Salt

Method

  1. Trim bottoms from asparagus spears as needed, spray with vegetable oil and grill on medium-high heat until lightly charred. Chill spears and cut in 2” lengths on the bias.
  2. Add all ingredients to a medium-size mixing bowl and toss.
  3. Serve as a small salad or part of an antipasto tray.


What are your favorite ways to enjoy fresh mozzarella? Let us know in the comments below!